Miss Fisher 3

A-Miss Fischer 3Miss Fisher Sleuths Again for a Third Season

Meanwhile, back in post-World War I Australia, the sexy Miss Phryne (say fry-nee) Fisher (Essie Davis) is in her third series of “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” in a boxed set of three Acorn DVDs. There are eight 55-minute episodes, the main plots of each independent of the others while the subplots develop slowly.

For example, Phryne’s relationship with Detective Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) has reached the stage in which he is jealous every time he sees her speaking to a man, while she reciprocates with equal sarcasm should he speak to a woman. Her aide-de-camp, Dot Williams (Ashleigh Cummings), is now ready to marry her Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), who agrees to convert to Catholicism.

The new element is the appearance of Phryne’s father, Baron Henry Fisher (Pip Miller), a charming (for women only, it seems) cad, for whom Fisher has so little respect that she believes him to be a suspect in a murder case. He certainly gets on the viewer’s nerves as much as he does on his daughter’s.

The main plots involve murder at a magic show, a killing near a military base, two rival Italian restaurants, the death of street boys, a sanatorium for very rich “hysterical” women, murder and gambling at a fading hotel, a tennis tournament and rival players, and a threat to Baron Fisher’s life.

Unlike other shows, there is little emphasis on mutilated bodies or rotting corpses. The guillotine trick that goes wrong in the first episode, for instance, is not too gruesome, the severing of the head being seen only in a long shot. Likewise, the autopsy scenes show restraint and respect for the viewers.

The tone of this show varies from very serious to light-hearted, the latter due mostly to Essie Davis’ portrayal of  what one critic called “the female answer to James Bond, Indiana Jones or a combination of both.”  Like Bond, she has persons of the opposite sex for breakfast; like Jones, she takes great physical risks to solve her cases. And like the three women who co-stared with Patrick Macnee in “The Avengers”—especially Diana Rigg—she can serve as a role model for young women who question the male’s “superiority” in the social order.

Among the usual behind-the-scenes bonuses is a charming “Mr. Butler’s Drink of the Week,” in which Mr. Butler the butler (Richard Blye) gives a brief recipe for whatever drink seems to suit the plot of the episode that precedes it.

A Gripping Miniseries Comes from Australia: “A Place to Call Home”


A Gripping Miniseries Comes from Australia

A-Place to Call HomeIt is 1953 and Nurse Sarah Adams (Marta Dusseldorp) is aboard ship on her way back to Australia. By chance, she saves the newly married James Bligh (David Berry) from suicide. This triggers the actions and reactions that make “A Place to Call Home” such a gripping miniseries, yet another superlative one from Australia. Series 1 is now available in a 4-DVD set from Acorn Media.

Never have I become so involved with the characters of a series, mainly because of its many types of conflicts that are still with us.. But first, a look at the Bligh family. The matriarch, Elizabeth (Noni Hazlehurst), has two children: George (Brett Climo), a widower, and Carolyn, a free-living “black sheep” of the family. George’s two children are Anna (Abby Earl), who is in love with a wine-farmer’s son, Gino (Aldo Mignone); and the aforementioned James, who is trying to run from his homosexuality.

The saddest character is Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood), who was manipulated into marrying James without knowing his problems. In short, every single member of that family is under the influence of Elizabeth, who is a villain of Euripidean proportions, including her weaknesses.

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It is hard to believe that this sweet looking Noni Hazelhurst could be so evil in this series

Outside the family, among others, are Dr. Jack Duncan (Craig Hall), who hires Sarah and who has some sort of past relationship with Elizabeth; and the nosey Doris Collins (Deborah Kennedy), who does what she can to dig up any dirt about Sarah. George’s sister-in-law, Regina (Jenni Baird), who has always loved him, shows up later to plot with Elizabeth against Sarah, cost what it will.

Sarah, after being rejected by her mother for converting to Judaism, goes to Inverness to work as a nurse and runs afoul of Elizabeth, who is afraid that Sarah will reveal what happened aboard the ship. Anna’s affair with Gino has to remain clandestine. Both George and Jack find themselves increasingly attracted to Sarah. Complications next to and within more complications.

One character describes the Blighs as “the closest we have to royalty.” The main themes are treated seriously and by 1953 standards. Many of the townsfolk are anti-Semtitic, homosexuality is considered “curable,” and Marilyn Monroe is a “loose” woman, whose films should not be seen. It is the superb acting and intelligent script that brings it all off.

A nice touch is the frequent use of 1953 “pop” songs on the soundtrack that comment on the action or emotions being shown on the screen.

I was stunned when each subplot was reaching its climax…and the series ended!!!

Each of the 13 episodes runs 46 minutes and there are subtitles.

A-Place to Call Home 2This brings us to Season 2, now out on a 3-DVD set from Acorn Media, which picks up at the crisis points that ended the last episode. I refuse to spoil things for the viewer, but I can mention a few high points.

A new villain, the spoiled womanizer Andrew Swanson (Matt Levett), has his eye on Anna and refuses to give her up (as if she were his to give) to an Italian winegrower. Then there are several harrowing scenes in which a determined doctor is “curing” James of  his “perversity” by electric shocks and aversion therapy. This is in the early 1950s, mind you.

Then the rotten Regina comes up with news about Sarah’s past that even Sarah does not know (and we are told what she did know in a startling revelation). There is a confrontation scene between Mrs. Bligh and Regina which is chilling; and most of the family’s rejecting Mrs. Bligh makes the viewer say “Good for her,” but yet…. Well, watch and see. This is superior viewing in all senses of the adjective.

Each of the 10 episodes runs about 45 minutes and there are subtitles.